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Elsewhere

TV Updates

Think it’s been a while since I posted any TV watching updates. :)

Broadchurch – Season 3

An amazing season and a wonderful end to a great show. Everything about this season was great. The plot, the characters, the music, just everything … you will be missed!

Medici: Masters of Florence

Happened to see this on Netflix and checked it out. Nothing great, but worth a watch if you have nothing else to do. The actor who played the main chap (Cosimo) had a dead look about himself. Not sure if that’s intentional. The music is great, including the opening title sequence (which is there on Apple Music). The stories were enlightening in that I wasn’t aware of how much interaction there was between the Church and banks. The show started slowly but became better as it progressed. I remember binge watching the last few episodes coz I was curious what would happen. 

Peaky Blinders

On the last episode of Season 1 currently. A good show so far – enjoying it. Not too fast but not too slow either. Good characters, great set/ lighting/ camera work. Good music. I began watching it coz it’s created by Steven Knight, who directed “Locke” which was an amazing movie. Cillian Murphy & Sam Neill are great. Looking forward to Tom Hardy in the next season. 

Baahubali

Wanted to put this somewhere and didn’t seem to be worth a blog post of its own. I re-watched “Baahubali: The Beginning” a few days ago – mainly to refresh myself and also for the benefit of my daughter who hadn’t seen it. Then saw “Baahubali: The Conclusion” yesterday. Both movies are filled with typical South Indian heroism where the hero can do just about anything and everyone else just watches in awe; and all the women are mesmerized by the hero, with the heroine usually being a strong/ arrogant character until she meets the hero after which he manages to “break” her (kind of like how you’d break a bull) and then she too is all smitten by him. The latter had an overdose of heroism, which frankly I couldn’t bear, but has a lot more special effects and some amazing scenes. Definitely watch it for these. Whatever I feel about the heroism, the director S.S. Rajamouli is a genius for envisioning this sort of stuff.

I guess I hate these heroism kind of movies coz I grew up watching these in Hindi and Tamil movies which were filled with these, and to my child mind that seemed to be how the world is – where if you are a good person you are a hero and have special powers and can do good and move mountains, and everyone looks up to you – but as I grew up and reality hit, I realized that the world isn’t like this. So my mind sort of revolts at this misinformation. I have nothing against super hero movies  coz these usually have an origin story or something that explains why the heroes are “super”; I am only against movies where regular heroes are just able to do super things for no reason except that they are a hero and this is a movie. That gets to me. I know movies are unreal and movies such as Baahubali are fantasy – but when it becomes too fantastical my mind is unable to digest it and I lose interest in the movie. 

Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu – a slice of life

Saw the mallu movie “Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu” today. It was a delightful watch. Slightly long and the ending was kind of sad; but I loved it. It’s the sort of movie that doesn’t really have any story. It’s like the director/ story writers just captured a slice of life in a village and its characters (centered around a chap called Baiju, played by Biju Menon). The movie reminded me of Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups”. They are not the same but very similar. Both movies, to me, have a similar feel – as if someone dipped into the water of and bottled a bit of it for us to see and enjoy. 

“Rakshadhikari” touches on many things. Friendship, sports, studies, life, love, failed love, new gen, old gen, happiness, sadness … and Baiju is sort of the central character in all of this. He is not the hero or main person or anything like that. He’s not a Rajnikanth :) just someone who is there and whom everyone looks up to, makes fun of, can depend upon … As one of his friends said before the intermission he is a lucky man who’s happy. People run around trying to find happiness – Baiju just is happy. It’s not like he is doing anything to gain respect or be happy – he just does what he likes and is. 

The movie isn’t preachy. Nor tries to take a side in old vs new or nature vs technology etc. It makes fun of FB and relationships over FB but at the same time highlights the benefits of social apps like WhatsApp that let two old friends keep in touch. Even the hospital that takes over the playground in the end isn’t portrayed in a negative light. Hospitals are useful and that is subtly mentioned in a scene. And the only message the movie ends with in the end is that all this progress and running towards wealth and career and ambition etc is good but we must not forget playgrounds and chilling out.. simple. The movie doesn’t even end on a high note like a typical “movie” might do – with some forced happy ending. Life isn’t always happy; it’s more sadness than happiness, one might say, but it moves on and you take it in that (sportsman) spirit and go along with it… and that’s how the movie too ends. 

Check it out! I liked it. 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

The latest xXx movie is a throwback to olden times. And while I usually enjoy such movies (e.g. The Expendables, and most Schwarzenegger movies) I found this one a bit over the top. I get it – Xander Cage is cool, is daring, loves it when things get messy (turbulent) – but in the whole movie it is sort of like he keeps jumping into trouble (sometimes for no particular reason either but just coz it’s cool) and nothing happens to him. It’s like he’s invincible. I think I would have enjoyed the movie as a child and had more fun with the coolness; but as an adult I found myself constantly thinking “this is so unbelievable”. Most action movies are unbelievable, yes, but the trick is to not take it over the top so the viewer too realizes it’s a bit too much. 

That’s my 2fils on xXx 3 anyways. And that said I’ll definitely watch the sequel when it comes out (am sure one will). I liked the main Chinese guy (sorry too lazy to Google his name) – he was fun. And I also loved the green hair gun lady (Rose or something). She had attitude and was fun. :)

Guess that’s it!

Iron Fist

I want to wrote opinions of stuff I watch, read, or listen. But I am not good at writing verbosely on such stuff – describing, showering praises or finding faults – so I usually refrain. Nevertheless I do want to record my opinions and thoughts somewhere, and if not on this of then where?

Part reason I don’t want to write much is that I know it’s an act of creativity, thinking up and executing and creating something. A TV show, Movie, or a book or anything ‘art’. And however much I might dislike it that’s just my personal opinion and I have no right to blurt it out in public. I can say in private to anyone as it’s a one to one, but having a blog or some social media gives me no right to say bad about something I personally don’t like. (And we’ll if it’s something I enjoy, then the other part of my reason wherein I suck at expressing my praise amd describing why kicks in and so I can’t write good either!)

Anyhow. On that note. I saw Netflix’s Iron Fist this weekend. I had seen up to episode 7 last month on a binge weekend, got bored and left it, but continued today as my daughter (who too binge watched previously) wanted to finish it. 

The second half was better than the first. More fighting. Still a lot of talking, confusion, and personal journey. Reminding me of watching “Batman vs Superman” and thinking how I’d hate to be Superman – such a tortured hero! This was similar. Chap’s got an Iron Fist, not really sure what to do with it except destroy the Hand, filled with guilt and anger and innocence and lied to by nearly everyone around him. If it were me, I would be “no thank you, please keep the iron fist and spare me all the torture!”

I guess my point is that it felt more of a drama than a superhero. If it were a drama genre show and I had signed up to watch it expecting that, I wouldn’t have minded. But I was looking for hero worship and some kick assing here and a plot that’s more “yeah I am the Iron Fist let’s go kick some a$$” than this confusion and lying and family drama. I shouldn’t be surprised I know. That’s how super hero movies are nowadays and especially​ the Marvel Netflix collaborations. 

On an unrelated​ note I am typing this from my Android phone (I never do that usually) and God! it’s such a torture. I hate the keyboard on Android. Keep making mistakes and most of the time the auto correct suggestions are not what I wanted. 

Oh and I almost forgot. Iron Fist has a good score by Trevor Morris. Strangely they don’t mention this in the opening credits but I found the album on Apple Music. Good stuff. 

A nice quote from Maigret “Night at the Crossroads”

On men. I liked it. Found it to be very insightful and true. 

I liked Michonnet. 

He didn’t want to protect me or kiss me, or own me. He just saw a scheme where he could make some money. 

Men aren’t usually that honest with themselves. Women are a fantasy, or a path to redemption, or a way they can escape their life. 

Maybe all men want to trap you in the end. And I was sick of that. 

Binge watching updates…

After a long time I spent the past two days (today & yesterday) doing nothing but binge watch. Family gone over to India for a few days, I am all to myself. Didn’t do any NSX or Citrix or study – simply plonked my feet up on the coach, hogged food, and watched TV. 

Legion

First up was Legion, which I had high expectations from coz it’s by Noah Hawley (of Fargo TV series fame). It was good but I wasn’t too impressed mainly coz I had high hopes I guess. Think I expected something like Fargo, while this was different. It’s visually stunning – the way the scenes are taken, the music, the performances – but wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. I know it’s a “me” thing so please don’t take this as a review/ comment on the show itself. I can’t even imagine what sort of a creative mind someone must have to imagine and execute the stuff on that show. It’s simply mind blowing!

I didn’t realize the lead character Dan Stevens was the same whose voice I knew from audiobooks. I had listened to him in the Agatha Christie audiobook “And Then There Were None”, loved his voice in that and searched for more audiobooks, found he’s also done Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (downloaded, not listened to yet) and the first James Bond book “Casino Royale” in the celebrity recordings (loved that performance!). Only when Dan Stevens began talking with the British accent did I feel that hmm this sounds familiar and realize that I had heard his voice in Audible. 

Anyways. Nice show. Very well taken. Wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. (Like for instance, Stranger Things or The OA – which are similar of a similar mood and I loved and associated with a lot more). 

11.22.63

Honestly, I thought this must be some horror show considering it’s Stephen King. Didn’t realize it was about time traveling and preventing the JFK assaination. It was wonderful! I loved this show. And James Franco was awesome. 

Interesting aside on James Franco – I am nowadays listening to his performance of “Slaughter House 5” by Kurt Vonnegut. He’s great in that. It’s a great book and James Franco has done an amazing job of it. Interesting how that book also has time traveling and talk of how everything just is and we are all in amber and questions of cause & effect & why are just human limitations etc. And then I see 11.22.63 which touches on similar stuff, especially with the pash pushing back etc. 

Also, the 60s set and simpler culture was a pleasure to watch. At the same time sad to see some of the stuff like treatment of women and blacks. Every age has its pluses and minus. :-/

Anyhoo. 11.22.63. Nice show. And loved James Franco!

Maigret’s Dead Man

Came across this by mistake. Checked it out coz it’s got Rowan Atkinson in it. Enjoyed it. Didn’t realize it’s actually the second episode of a reboot show. Got to watch the other episodes now. 

This show too is set in an older time. Was fun to see that. A very well taken movie/ episode over all. 

Maigret: Night at the Crossroads

Managed to watch this later on. This is the first episode in the second season. The previous one I had seen was the second episode in the first season. I haven’t managed to get hold of the first episode of the first season; and I believe there’s one more episode in this second season. 

Anyways. It was a good watch. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It also reminded me a lot of “Foyle’s War” – which is a show I had similarly enjoyed. Both shows have similar pacing and music. Slow procedural mysteries with a main detective and his subordinates. 

Maigret sets a trap

Hurray, managed to watch this one too! I actually saw this and “Night at the Crossroads” after “Split” but thought I’d put them together with the first Maigret episode I watched. 

Am surprised “Maigret sets a trap” was the first episode of the reboot. It’s very different from the rest. Maigret is under pressure, his superiors want him off the case coz they believe he is not delivering, Maigret is moody himself due to this and clutching at straws, even his subordinates are a bit unsure if Maigret can pull this one off. The case itself is a very odd one. No clues, no connections, and we the viewers are left in suspense till the end as to whether Maigret caught the wrong man. It’s all kind of flimsy after all. But no – Maigret did catch the right man, and it’s all explained very well actually. A different but very nice episode. Fitting, in a way, for me to have ended my binge watching with this one. This is the kind of episode I’d have put across as a season finale. 

Looking forward to the next episode!

Split

Ok so this one wasn’t how I expected it to be. I was expecting some psychological thriller or more focus on the personalities themselves. Totally didn’t expect The Beast to actually appear in the end! It’s sort of like how I never expected aliens in Shyamalan’s “Signs” and boom! they make an appearance. Great performances by James McAvoy and a well taken movie over all. 

Oh. And the “Unbreakable” reference in the end? Totally didn’t expect that. Ooooh. “Unbreakable” is one of my favorite Shyamalan movies (THE favorite movie I’d say). 

I have to stop thinking of Shyamalan as a director with a twist in the end. It’s all coz of “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable” and “Signs”. Got to keep in mind that one can expect monster and aliens all that stuff. He is more into the horror thrill genre now. 

Miss Sloane

I started watching this movie thinking it would be action thriller like the Bourne movies or something. ;-) After I realized it was about lobbying and senate hearings and bill passing etc I had a good mind to stop watching … but for the character of Miss Sloane! Boy she was something. What a character. An odd, cold, personality … it was something! A great movie. More than that, a great character. And a good insight into the kind of stuff that happens as part of lobbying (most of which made no sense to me and was of no interest). 

That’s all for now!

Update:

The Dressmaker

Saw this the next day but thought I’d add it with the rest anyways. God, what a bore of a movie. The synopsis mentioned this being a revenge story or something, so I imagined something alone the lines of “The Count of Monte Cristo”. There’s some revenge alright – towards the end – but it’s a drag until then with some nice moments interpresed here and there. The movie’s nearly 2 hours long. Think I could have done something way useful with that time! Bleh. 

Hugo Weaving’s character was quite good by the way. Very different to his other roles. The story is good; the movie is good too, am sure, for others – just wasn’t my cup of tea. This is a revenge story with a lot of drama. I want a revenge story with a lot more action and speed. 

X-Men: Apocalypse – I loved it!

I saw “X-Men: Apocalypse” at the movies yesterday and loved it. Before going for the movie I had a headache; by the time I came out I was a cured man. :)

I feel conscious saying I enjoyed “X-Men: Apocalypse” because most reviews I chanced upon seem to hate it. They don’t like its villain, or the themes, the continuity with other X-Men movies, it’s plot, etc – but I liked it, and probably for these same reasons really (except the continuity mess-up).

It was such a relief watching “X-Men: Apocalypse” after all these complicated superhero movies like “Batman vs. Superman” or “Captain America: Civil War”. None of this heroes fighting heroes stuff – particularly for not much reason – none of this gray area-ness or questions of right & wrong and morals and whatnot. Just a simple straight-forward good vs bad superhero movie – wow, I missed those!

Most superhero movies try to be dark and realistic nowadays, inspired by “The Dark Knight”. I loved “The Dark Knight” – probably my favorite super hero movie of all – but that too was more or less clear in terms of sides. Batman was good, Joker was bad, but Joker’s reasons for being bad was the cool deal as was the way he went about being bad. But there was no question in your head of choosing sides or any other issues. Simple.

I wish “X-Men: Apocalypse” didn’t bring in Wolverine to confuse the timeline, but apart from that niggle it was good. I guess the best way to ignore that niggle is to ignore the Wolverine movies altogether – which is easily done as the two Wolverine movies have not much continuity between them anyways!

I liked the villain Apocalypse. There have been comments of him focusing too much on dressing up or not being menacing enough – that didn’t bother me much. Yes he was dressed all grandly, but he’s from the Egyptian civilization era and they were grandly dressed back then so that’s just how he is. He was not menacing enough – I don’t know, I enjoyed watching him. The plot made sense to me as did what Apocalypse wanted. The ending was a bit of a we-need-to-destroy-him-somehow-so-the-movie-can-conclude, but that’s fine too – we get to see Phoenix and her introduction makes sense with the ending.

I enjoyed the opening sequence that introduced Apocalypse. I enjoyed the title credits. I enjoyed QuickSilver and his amazing sequence. I enjoyed most of the plot. Professor Xavier going bald didn’t make sense :) but then what the heck, he had to go bald eventually and this seemed like a good place. I enjoyed Jean the subtle hint/ reference to Phoenix (without saying the name but just through the imagery). The amount of destruction in the end was a bit over the top and and repetitive (like every other mass destruction movie sequence you have seen), but you can’t call a movie Apocalypse and not have some apocalyptic stuff happening.

So yeah – that’s it I guess. I loved “X-Men: Apocalypse”. A simple old-fashioned superhero movie. Good heroes vs Bad villains. No other drama. :)

Broadchurch

Binge watched “Broadchurch” Season 1 last year. Loved it! It was a brilliant show about the impact of a little boy’s murder on a small town and how it unravels everyone’s lives and exposes secrets. Not just the plot but the mood, the music, the cinematography, the actors – it was all very well put together. 

Binge watched the US remake “Gracepoint” last week. It was good for a US show but not that great compared to the original (I always feel the darker British shows are better than American ones). They stretched the plot a bit but the characters and the mood was good. The ending was a letdown though. An unnecessary and illogical twist just to make this show appear different? That was a letdown. 

This week I binge watched “Broadchurch” Season 2. Was a but apprehensive coz WikiPedia it didn’t have much favorable reviews and I really didn’t want to spoil my memories of the first season, but all those worries were unfounded. “Broadchurch” Season 2 is equally great! Different from the first one but a great and sensible follow-up to the events of the first Season, with another murder mystery thrown in at the side. “Broadchurch” is never about the murder mystery anyways – in both seasons the case is solved because someone confesses – it’s always about the impact on everyone else and the revulsion at what happened. 

Don’t approach “Broadchurch” Season 2 expecting similar plot lines as the first one. Season 2 is similar but different. 

Two other good shows I enjoyed this year but didn’t get a chance to mention are “Fortitude” and “Ascension”. Check these out if you haven’t already!

Update: I liked this quote by Paul Coates in Season 2 Episode 7 (it’s from 2 Corinthians 12:8-10):

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Uttama Villain – nice!

Note:

Following post is about the Tamil movie “Uttama Villain”. 

I wouldn’t call “Uttama Villain” a must watch, but if you are into comedy-dramas and like the sort of philosophical movies Kamal Hassan’s mind cooks up then it’s a must watch! It’s not for everyone as it’s not a typical commercial movie; at the same time it’s not dry either. Think “Inception” but less special effects and a but more viewer involvement required. 

The movie has layers. And it plays upon comparing and contrasting these layers. Each layer is good on its own but the movie is about the whole picture. It’s like having a “gajjar ka halwa / gulab jamun – ice cream” combination. The sum is larger than the parts. 

To begin with: the title itself isn’t what you would expect it to be. I thought “Uttama Villain” meant “Ideal Villain” – I expected “Uttama” to be the trait, such as in “Uttama Purushan” (“Ideal Man”), and “Villain” to be the English word. But that’s not correct. “Villain” is actually “Archer” – it is from the word “Vill” (“Arrow”), as in “Ambum Villum” (“Bow and Arrow”), and “Uttama” is simply a name “Uttama” short for “Uttaman”. Hence the title really is “Uttaman the Archer”. 

That said once you watch the movie I think the title has a double meaning. I think the misleading title “Ideal Villain” (which makes you think this is some action flick) isn’t entirely misleading; in a sense the movie is also about the ideal villain – death (and it’s counter part immortality) as well as Kamal Hassan’s character (Manoranjan the actor) who is a villain (sort of: supposedly dumped the girl he loved, broke off with his mentor director, unhappy family relationships, extra marital affairs) but by the end everyone loves him. 

I am not really explaining it well here because I can’t find the right words and partly because I am still processing it. This is one of those movies which you watch again just to enjoy and glean the subtleties. 

At one level “Uttama Villain” is about a dying actor who realizes he has screwed it up. He is popular in public thanks to his commercial, movies but he knows that that doesn’t mean anything of substance. Once he dies people who’ll forget him. He is just a fad, hollow, there’s nothing of worth in his life. Added to that he discovers he had abandoned the woman he loved and their daughter (whom he wasn’t aware of). His family relationships aren’t going great. And he has broken off and is fighting with his mentor whose movies had initially made him famous. All said and done not a good life, and one that’s ending soon. 

On that level he is a villain (a bad character). As with villains they have a great public life but a sucky private life. Not loved by anyone. And easily replaced by the next villain that will come along. 

On this level he too has a villain – death. The perfect villain. He wants to beat that by achieving immortality. You can’t do that in the physical sense of course, but you can be immortal in the sense that there are people who love you and will miss you after your death. Making amends in his personal life will help that. And in his public/ work life he could make a movie of substance for which people will remember him even after he is long gone. 

Now we get to the next level (it’s a parallel level really). This is the movie Kamal Hassan the actor (his name’s Manoranjan, I should just start calling him that) wants to make. This is a comedy – he wants to go out making everyone laughing. This movie is also called “Uttama Villain” – in the second meaning of the title, “Uttaman the Archer”. 

On paper this inner movie is simple. Uttaman is an actor (not an archer!). He practices a form of the Kerala theyyam dance form (also known as kaliyattam) fused with Tamil koothattu. The movie begins with Uttaman enacting the story of Arjuna and Shiva – where Arjuna is asking Shiva for the pashupati astra. (This is the sense in which Uttaman is an archer). The play breaks up when some incidents happen, and through a series of incidents after that everyone begins to think Uttaman is immortal. (Notice the juxtaposition – a dying Manoranjan playing an immortal Uttaman – while trying to attain immortality in a different sense himself). 

At the same time there’s a king – who became king through treachery (akin to how Manoranjan became popular) – and is expected to die according to his astrologers). He wants to become immortal and gets Uttaman to his court so he can learn the secret of immortality from him. In a sense this king – the villain of this story – is a personification of the villain element in Manoranjan, while Uttaman is the idealness that Manoranjan aspires to be. Eventually the idealness wins over the villainness (by the end of the story) when Uttaman kills the king. 

This story also has a princess – daughter of the previous king – whom the villain king wants to marry. She hates the king and is thus imprisoned. She helps Uttaman appear immortal (by helping him escape from a tiger) and aids him in defeating the king. I see her as a personification of Manoranjan’s daughter. She hates him (the villain side of him) but eventually starts to love him after she sees how much he loved her mother but was tricked (which plays along with Uttaman starting to love the princess and she liking him in return). 

In addition to these two levels the climax has a third story which was really cool. That really blew me away! In this one Uttaman tells the king he needs to make a play to attain immortality – sort of how Manoranjan is making a movie to attain a different sort of immortality. The play is about Hiranyakashyapu – an interesting choice coz (a) he is immortal and (b) the story is usually told from Prahalad’s point of view. In this story Uttaman is supposed to play Narasimham and the king Hiranyakashyapu, and in the finale Uttaman would kill the king with his poisoned claws. In a change of plans however, the king decides to play Narasimham as that character has no dialogues and is the one that doesn’t die, so Uttaman ends up being Hiranyakashyapu and likely to end up really dead because of the poisoned claws. But in a turn of events the king (Narasimham) ends up scratching himself and dying with Uttaman (Hiranyakashyapu) surviving. This is a twist on the real story of Hiranyakashyapu and Narasimham but it works well here coz in this context Evil has died and Good has triumphed. And Uttaman escapes unharmed – once again he seems to be immortal – and the movie of Uttaman turns out to well (the director and everyone else likes it) implying Manoranjan will be immortal, while in reality he dies. 

I liked how the climax chose the Hiranyakashyapu story. I can’t place a finger on why I liked it very much just that it feels very “meta” and I like how it is twisted around. It is in line with everything else in the movie – a layer within a layer, meta of a meta. 

One part didn’t make much sense to me though. Once Uttaman kills the king it is revealed that he is the neighboring kingdom’s king. That doesn’t make much sense to me, especially considering how Uttaman was introduced and also because it seemed like a waste of time going to this lengths just to kill the king. It probably has some meta significance that I am not getting. 

That’s all for now. Check out “Uttama Villain” if you think you like such movies. 

Update: Came across this blog post that goes into further detail about the plot and the movie within the movie. A must read!

Update 2: A special mention to the music by Mohammad Ghibran. I read somewhere that he took a year and half to come up with the music. Am not surprised! It is very well done and the music, lyrics, and singing are a huge part of the movie.

Thoughts on BBC One’s “The Missing”

The Missing is an interesting show. It’s one of those things that pull you in while watching, and while the ending may not make sense or might even let you down, you still keep thinking over the show and its characters. 

I started watching The Missing because of James Nesbitt. I stayed on because I liked the plot. It was slow, but every now and then the writers would drop something to feed your interest and keep you hooked for the next episode (where again the plot would slowly meander along). I suppose I could say I am a fan of slow shows, but that won’t be correct either, I think. Many a times I had a good mind to quit The Missing and just go over to Wikipedia to read what happens. But I held on because something attracted me to it. Maybe it’s Nesbitt’s performance, maybe it’s the writing. The plot is slow, but not painfully slow. The characters are sad, but not painfully sad (as one might say of Sarah Lunden of The Killing, which is similarly slow but I gave up after three seasons and was glad when they cancelled it). 

Yes, I think it’s the writing on The Missing that definitely had me hooked. The way the episodes were written and directed, it pulled you in to the plot so that while it was slow you were still hooked on to the plot and curious about what’s happening. And each episode was an exercise in slowly inching towards the truth. In each episode the characters (mainly James Nesbitt and Tchéky Karyo) uncovering a clue, come across roadblocks, and just when all hope seems to be lost there’s a glimmer of hope which leads them to the next clue/ episode. And these aren’t just random clues. They are sensible and well placed, so you stick on with the show. 

Interestingly it was the father of the missing boy who is more worried and “crazy” in this show, while the mother though sad manages to cope with it and make an effort to move ahead with her life. I didn’t expect that. In the first episode when the boy wen’t missing, I assumed it would be the mother who’d have difficulty and hence break up the marriage. Again, good writing. Sensible stuff. 

The ending is what put me off and also dragged me into the show. Not the ending of the mystery where they discover what “supposedly” happened to the boy, but the mystery surrounding that ending. That was superbly taken. For one, when the boy’s dead body was shown to the mayor, we the audience too never see it. So we are trapped in the mind of the parents – inquisitive just like them to know what happened to the boy – but unable to verify for themselves/ ourselves on whether the dead body was really of the boy. And therein the writers are kind of treating us like the father and mother I think. Some of us will be like the mother and find peace with the ending, telling ourselves that it was indeed the boy so we now have some sort of closure. But the rest of us will be like the father, unsure about the ending – and tearing ourselves apart in the process – because we haven’t seen the body! And to top it up there’s the final ending where the father is now in Russia and there’s a picture of the stick figure the boy draws, and we are left with no closure as to whether the boy drawing it was the son or just some random kid. We are trapped in the father’s mind-frame with no closure for ourselves, haunted with the thought that perhaps the boy is still alive! I love that.

The Missing really isn’t about a boy missing. It’s about the things missing in everyone’s life (including the viewers) after the experience. Missing closure. Missing life because of being trapped in the prison. Missing peace. 

If I remember correctly ever since the boy went missing, every year his father had been on some clue hunt or the other. Most of them ended up in a false alarm, but this latest one led to an end. The question now – and rightly so – is whether he should just leave it at that, or keep digging to answer all his questions? After all if he had just left things as they were, he would have never discovered what really happened to his son. So isn’t he justified in digging further and ignoring everyone else in his pursuit to satisfy any other doubts he may have? And especially since that stick figure drawing was on that window in Russia – surely it must mean something?

See how I am trapped in the father’s mind now. That’s what I said – excellent writing! “It’s the slow knife that cuts the deepest” (via Dark Knight Rises) – so apt here! It’s the slow episodes that have actually cut deepest into my mind. 

Anyone else noticed that James Nesbitt and Jason Flemyng have both played characters of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde? The former in the TV show Jekyll, the latter in the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And in this show one’s the ex-husband, the other’s the new husband. Heh!

If you ask me whether I’d watch The Missing again, I’d probably not. Do I love the show a lot? Sure, yes! I think it’s a great show. Many viewers seem to compare it to Broadchurch and prefer this over the latter. I don’t know if I’d choose one over the other – in my mind you can’t compare the two. Broadchurch was faster paced, but still a slow show and about something else altogether – how a murder ripples through a small community and nearly everyone seems to be a suspect (again, smart writing!). If I were given a choice between watching one over the other I’d take Broadchurch – mainly because it was more murder mystery, less other stuff, and also because it was slightly faster. But that’s not to say The Missing is better than Broadchurch, or vice versa. 

But I’d take Fargo over all these shows! Again, a different beast altogether, but boy do I love Fargo! I loved the writing, and I loved all the characters – esp. the really evil Billy Bob Thornton character, and the deeply evil Martin Freeman character. Nice!!

East meets West – a great documentary

Saw the first part of an amazing eye opening documentary today – East meets West. Learnt a bit about Islam and its spread in the process. Like I said, it was an eye opener!

I didn’t know, for instance, that in its initial years (centuries?) Islam was quite an “open” religion. In the sense that when it took over Christian countries like Damascus, Jerusalem, etc it didn’t convert all the citizens to Muslims nor did it demolish/ convert all the churches to mosques. Instead both religions flourished side by side. That’s just amazing!

Moreover Islam encouraged science and didn’t view scientific pursuit as being against religion. This was particularly poignant considering I had recently read a book about science and religion in India (Ganesha in the dashboard) which talks a lot about how religion views science in opposition to it. I don’t know how Islam views this now but it was good to know back then science was encouraged. Islam considers the world a work of God and science the way mankind can appreciate the beauty of God’s handiwork. So you are not really going against God by trying to understand how things work, you are merely appreciating it. That makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it?

I also loved the fact that Islam promoted “madrasas” (open schools?) where anyone from the street could just walk into lectures being held by professors on various topics. If you liked it, stay on, else you are free to leave or attend one from a different professor. Islam was big on learning and asking questions. They translated all the Greek and similar works to Arabic. And places Baghdad (which when I hear of now I think war and unrest and Saddam) were the centres of learning and progress. There were plenty of madrasas and libraries all throughout the various Islamic cities. In a way all these reminded me of the Internet of nowadays where there’s a lot of democratization of knowledge – open lectures and freedom to choose what you want, a place where it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor or what your background is, as long as you like to learn and want to make a difference you can! Good stuff…

It’s a four part documentary. Go check it out if you are interested in such stuff.

Gotham

I started watching Gotham expecting to be let down by it. Everyone had great reviews about it based on the trailer and pilot, but I figured that was all just hype. After all what could a TV series about Gotham and Jim Gordon really bring to the table? Batman’s the big deal, and Jim Gordon and all the villains are important, but come on – a TV show just about these!? – will that work?

Boy, was I mistaken! Gotham is awesome. I was hooked from the start itself. It gets Bruce Wayne’s parents murder out of the way right at the beginning and then moves on the Jim Gordon and the cesspool that is Gotham. It reminds me of the Batman comics like “The Long Halloween” which is about the Gotham criminal enterprise as Italian mafia and has a dark noir feel to it. Gotham has a similar feel though not too dark noir. And it mixes it all up with how corrupt everyone in the city is, and how Jim Gordon is an honest cop trying to make his way there being badgered by all sides and losing hope but not quite losing it, and it has future Batman villains like the Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Riddler, and so on strewn through out. And these villains are portrayed wonderfully! The Penguin, for instance, is amazing – evil! – and Catwoman is great, played with the right balance of good vs bad. The Riddler and Poison Ivy don’t have much screen time yet.

Apart from the usual mafia families such as the Falconi and Maroni there is a new character – Fish Mooney – who is so evilly played by Jada Pinkett Smith. I mean she is evil. The character has a strong personality and that’s someone you just don’t want to cross with. And Jada Pinkett Smith brings out all these qualities so well, it’s just a pleasure to watch her and be awed by Fish Mooney.

I am also impressed at how Bruce Wayne isn’t sidelined among all this adult stuff. He is very much in the show and every episode has him developing his character and offering more insights to his self. Am glad about that.

Three episodes down so far! Fourth one was out yesterday, yet to watch it.

[Aside] Netflix and Adam Sandler

Netflix signs Adam Sandler for a four movie deal. The world hates it. I don’t see why…

I love Adam Sandler. I think is a common man hero. His characters are just regular people, no flashy antics or hero stuff. Most of his movies have simple plots too, albeit weird at times. But I enjoy them!

The other day I saw “Blended” starring him and Drew Barrymore. The movie started slow and the plot is contrived but I loved it. The idea was good and down to the earth. And I liked Adam Sandler’s character.

I am happy Netflix is doing this. Hope Adam Sandler makes more movies!

The Dark Knight Returns (animation)

Saw the first part of “The Dark Knight Returns” animation movie. It was excellent. Way better than the comic. The story is similar or the comic but better presented. It made a lot more sense and I liked the way it was taken. The direction, dialogues, background music, and so on. The first part ends well too – with the Joker awaking from his catatonic state. Yum!

Thira

The other day I saw “Thira”, a decent Malayalam movie. “Thira”, which means “search”, is Vineeth Sreenivasan’s third directorial venture. And like all his past ventures public opinion of the movie seems to be positive but I didn’t like it much.

“Thira” is a thriller. It’s well taken too, but I didn’t like it too much. The movie didn’t hold my interest much, maybe because I am used to Hollywood movies that are way more intense, or maybe it’s a fault of the story/ screenplay/ direction – I don’t know! This is also why I am vague in my opinions of the movie. For some reason I have a voice in my head wondering whether I am being too critical of the movie. Part of me says it is good to be critical – and if I expect a movie to be up to Hollywood standards (in terms of story and screenplay, not special effects or any high budget/ tech items mind you) then it is fine as that’s a good standard to aspire too. Similarly if I expect better from a director like Vineeth Sreenivasan, that too is fine because I think he is a smart fellow and so it is reasonable to expect high of him.

My main complaints with “Thira”, apart from not having a tension for the story, is that it was too easy. Problems were presented but these were overcome with ease. If it had been only about the hero (Vineeth’s brother, I forget his name) and Shobana trying to find the kidnapped girls without any help and purely on their wits I could get it. But in this case there were too many things making it easy for them – after the hero’s sister is kidnapped the vehicle very conveniently has an accident because of his which he is able to start tracking them down; Shobana and the hero are very conveniently brought together (instead of being killed) and I am still not sure how the villains came to know of them being where they were; the snitch in Shobana’s house was very easily exposed at a critical juncture by his own doing; the climax scenes where they track down the girls to a place in Goa and then free them are all too easily done… Basically I didn’t feel any suspense or tension with what was happening, I didn’t care much.

Shobana’s performance too, I felt wasn’t as nuanced as it could be. Too many angry stares and scowls, as if she was asked to focus on her Nagavali character expressions from “Manichitrathazhu”. Even when her children were kidnapped and she had no clue what to do, she has a scowl rather than sadness or fear.

Another thing I noted was the background music. I felt it wasn’t racy enough to match the situation. It was good in some parts – suspenseful – but in many parts it seemed to have a mind of its own without a care for the circumstance. The songs too were fine, nothing noteworthy and I have already forgotten them.

Overall I’d say “Thira” is worth a watch just that I didn’t enjoy it too much. It is a good movie, better than most Malayalam thrillers, but I expected more.